Once you become a parent, your life is likely to revolve around your little one. Their wellbeing is your priority now – your schedule will probably change to suit them, and they’re probably on your mind 24/7.
It’s easy to deprioritize your own wellbeing as you adjust to parenting. Baby’s bath time seems more important than dad’s shower time; baby’s crying seems more important than mum’s nap time. Remember that taking care of yourself is a crucial part of taking care of your family.
Here are some ways to increase self-care for new parents:
You’ve surely heard by now that a balanced diet is critical. Eating right involves focusing on fruit and vegetable intake, eating enough grains, legumes, and protein, and managing sugar intake in moderation. This is easier said than done.
Try creating a physical checklist to keep yourself accountable. Divide a page into days and spread out meal plans. Try ‘Salad Saturdays’ and always plan to eat leafy greens and veggies at least one meal this day. ‘Sugar Sundays’ could help limit your sugar intake to one day a week. Moderation is key.
Maybe splitting the days up like this is too strict for you – you might prefer to sprinkle treats throughout the week or eat a salad every day anyway. An alternative checklist can involve meal plans that include the nutrients you need in a week. If you know what you need for a week’s meals, you can shop for everything at the start of the week. If you have time to bulk cook and freeze some meals, this will save time down the road.
Becoming a parent is emotionally rewarding, as well as draining and challenging. It’s normal to experience overwhelm, anxiety, or negative thoughts. Speak to someone you trust. This could be your partner, a friend, family member, therapist, or a free online or phone support service.
Speaking your mind can make a world of weight off your shoulders. Admitting your struggles with parenting doesn’t make you a bad parent. Talking makes you strong, human, and committed to improving. You’ll find many new parents are experiencing similar emotions.
Breathing is one of the most simple and effective coping methods. Try the 4-4-4 breathing method: inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4. Even if you have a crying baby to tend to, you can usually spare 12 seconds. You’d be amazed at what oxygen can do for your mental state and resilience.
Exercise is crucial to physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re strapped for time, try some of these short exercises (which are recommendations – a professional should be consulted for proper and safe execution). Always try to include stretch time before and after exercising.
Calf raises: Save time by doing these while stuck at the stove or sink. With your feet together, slowly raise onto your tip-toes and back down and repeat.
Walking: Take the pram with you for a stroll around the block.
Dumbbells: Light dumbbells are handy for upper body exercise. You can even fill water bottles for a cheaper weight. Try sitting in a chair with a straight back, with your elbows out to the side at a 90-degree angle. Raise your arms above your head in a controlled, slow motion. This can be done without equipment too.
Exercising with a loved one or in a group is also a great way to socialize and build a routine.
Your baby doesn’t have to feel separate from your own wellbeing. Me-time is essential, but so is family time. Playing with your baby can ignite your imagination and may release feel-good endorphins. Whether your bouncing baby on your knee, reading a story, tickling, or building blocks together, playtime can be beneficial for parents too.